You’ve seen the social media reactions, but now the full reviews for Venom have been posted online. Critics don’t seem to love Tom Hardy’s Spider-Man spinoff. We won’t know exactly what audiences think until the movie opens this weekend, so for now, check out what the critics are saying below.
The pervasive lack imagination of this film under the auspices of director Ruben Fleischer, in his first feature outing since the dreadful Gangster Squad in 2013, makes one appreciate the thought and care that Marvel has lavished not only on the likes of Black Panther and Captain America but even on more minor-league entries such as the amusing Ant-Man titles. Everything here seems by-the-book, without amusement or surprise, save for Stan Lee’s more extensive-than-usual last-minute cameo.
In “Venom,” the spectacular but mostly derivative and generically plotted new comic-book origin story (it’s the first installment of the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters), Tom Hardy is afflicted with an otherworldly force that invades his mind, his body, his very being. It’s called the desire to act like a stumblebum Method goof. The symptoms, which are highly visible and dramatic, range from a propensity for bug-eyed staring to a tendency to swallow each line with a kind of renegade doofus mumble, in a way that leaves Hardy sounding like a cross between early Marlon Brando and late Adam Sandler.
If you replaced Tom Hardy for Steve Martin in “All of Me,” and switched out Lily Tomlin for a wad of chewed-up black licorice, you’d have “Venom.” The difference being that “All of Me” is a charming screwball comedy, and “Venom” is the kind of comic-book movie that people who hate comic-book movies think that all comic-book movies are like.
Venom isn’t quite bad, but it’s not exactly good either. It’s noncommittally mediocre and, as a result, forgettable. It just sort of sits there, beating you numb, unsure of whether it wants to be a comic-book movie or put the whole idea of comic-book movies in its crosshairs. It never rises above bombastic and busy — which is something I never thought I’d say about a movie starring three aces like Hardy, Ahmed, and Williams. Visually, which is the only thing really going for it, Venom has a stylishly gloomy Nolan-does-Gotham vibe. But Venom, the character, never comes into focus until the last five minutes, when it finally, at long last, starts to get interesting. Until then, he’s just another bit of secondary Marvel IP who scowls and growls, and never shows us why he should be headlining his own movie.
Bear with me here; Venom the movie is an actual “turd in the wind.” Chop off its legs thanks to a weak first act. Lose the arms because every single supporting character is essentially worthless. The head obviously has to go because Venom is pretty brainless. And, not for nothing, but that leaves us with the heart (or for the sake of this visual, the torso) of the movie, the Venom and Eddie relationship, a component that’s just going where the wind takes us in this downright wacky comic book adaptation.
There are two movies inside Venom, and they spend 100 minutes battling over a theoretical franchise-starter’s soul.
There’s a big, clunky comic-book movie, in which a reluctant hero embraces and wields newfound powers to save the world, and clutching that by-the-books blockbuster by the throat is a bloodthirsty, symbiote romp spearheaded by star Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises), who sinks his teeth into the picture with tour-de-force comedic performance.
Sadly, Venom suffers from the same lack of cohesion and rejects everything that might’ve turned it into a badass joyride in the vein of Deadpool or Guardians of the Galaxy. The result is a muddled hodgepodge that isn’t sure whether it wants to be comedic or take its troubled antihero way too seriously. (When your main character is threatening to eat someone’s pancreas as a tasty snack, you probably want to lean into the absurdity.)
Above all, it’s a poorly conceived script which hurts the film in the end. Awkwardly nuanced attempts at comedy often clog up scenes which Fleischer gave his best efforts to direct. Despite crowded environments and wild choreography, Fleischer kept the mayhem easy to follow and brought out the best possible from his stars. Ultimately, Fleischer shouldn’t be blamed for the stiff moments and simple scenarios which were written into the movie.